I've just finished and uploaded episode 21 of my This Birding Life podcast and it's available for free downloading at Podcast Central on the Bird Watcher's Digest site. You can also get it in the iTunes Store's Podcasts section, in the Games and Hobbies (MP3 version) or Literature (M4a version) categories.
This episode is based on an interview I conducted during my trip to the Philippines last March. My guest is Lisa Marie Paguntalan a conservation biologist who is working to save two critically endangered birds on the island of Cebu in the Philippines: the Cebu flowerpecker and the black shama. Lisa has been working with a team of field researchers and forest wardens to study and protect the forest remnants where these two species are barely hanging on. It's been a tough, long road.
She has had to convince the local farmers and villagers that protecting the forest is in their own best interests. She has worked to convince local politicians that recovering forest is better than the construction of yet another winding mountain road. And she has accomplished these things on behalf of a bird (the flowerpecker) that is small, shy, and vanishingly rare: there are just 100 or so Cebu flowerpeckers in the world, all living in three small forest fragments on Cebu. In fact, it's so hard to find and see that there never has been a decent photograph taken of this species.
The Philippines have suffered from centuries of exploitation due to the islands' rich resources. Mining, logging, agriculture, and subsistence farming and hunting have affected nearly every part of this country. Lisa and her fellow bird conservationists face an uphill struggle, but if you listen to her story as she tells it in Episode 21: Saving the Cebu Flowerpecker, you'll see there is reason for hope.
I owe a special thanks to all my Philippine birding and tourism friends for inviting me on the trip. To Tim Appleton of the British Birdwatching Fair for including this lone American on an otherwise 100% Brit birding trip. Thanks to Richard Allen for granting permission to use his beautiful painting of the Cebu flowerpecker. To Godfrey Jakosalem and David Tipling for their excellent photography included in the enhanced audio (M4a) version of this episode.
And I am especially grateful to Lisa Marie Pagutalan and her colleagues for the work they are doing in the forests of Cebu.
Lisa Marie and a contingent of birders and tourism officials from the Philippines will be attending The British Birdwatching Fair in England next month. The Cebu flowerpecker is just one of the species included in the event's Critically Endangered Birds fundraising efforts benefiting BirdLife International.